The German Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale


By Martin Macdonald

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, this year’s German Pavilion is housed in the French Pavilion and vice versa. Of the four exhibited artists, only Romuald Karmakar (Wiesbaden, 1965) of Iranian and French heritage is Geman-born. This multinational grouping is further comprised of Ai Weiwei (Beijing, 1957), Dayanita Singh (New Delhi, 1961) and Santu Mofokeng (Soweto, 1956).

So what do these artists have in common? According to the press release, what unites their works is that “they challenge the notion of the unambiguous biography and of the specific national or cultural identity. They also explore the dissolution of particular concepts of identity precipitated by modernisation and the globalisation of their respective realities.”

Whether or not the pavilion says anything about Germany today, curator Susanne Gaensheimer has done a good job at putting together a thought-provoking show featuring the works of four world-renowned artists. 
 

Romuald Karmakar, Between the Devil and the Wide Blue Sea, Film still, 2005
© Pantera Film GmbH

Romuald Karmakar, Land der Vernichtung (Land of Annihilation), Film still, 2003
© Pantera Film GmbH

 
Romuald Kamakar, Anticipation (working title: Waiting for Sandy), USA 2013
16:9, 4 min, A Pantera Film Production, © 2013 Pantera Film GmbH.
© Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in Zusammenarbeit mit/ in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt
 

From left to right:
Romuald Kamakar, 8. Mai (8th of May), Germany 2005/2013,
4:3, 45 min, A Pantera Film Production, © 2013 Pantera Film GmbH
Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2010-2013, 886 antique stools, 11 x 12 x 6.7 m,
courtesy of Ai Weiwei and Gallery neugerriemschneider, Berlin;
Romuald Kamakar, Hamburger Lektionen (Hamburg Lectures), Germany 2006
16:9, 134 min, A Pantera Film Production, © 2013 Pantera Film GmbH.
© Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in Zusammenarbeit mit / in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt, artdoc.de

Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2010-2013
886 antique stools, 11 x 12 x 6.7 m
courtesy of Ai Weiwei and Gallery neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
 © Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in Zusammenarbeit mit/ in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt

 
Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2010-2013
886 antique stools, 11 x 12 x 6.7 m
courtesy of Ai Weiwei and Gallery neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
 © Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in Zusammenarbeit mit/ in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt

Dayanita Singh, Sea of Files, 2013
Digital Slide Projection
courtesy of Dayanita Singh and Frith Street Gallery, London.
© Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in Zusammenarbeit mit/ in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt

Dayanita Singh, Sea of Files, 2013
Digital Slide Projection
courtesy of Dayanita Singh and Frith Street Gallery, London.
© Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in Zusammenarbeit mit/ in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt

Dayanita Singh, Mona and Myself, 2013
Moving Still image
courtesy of Dayanita Singh and Frith Street Gallery, London.
© Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in Zusammenarbeit mit/ in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt.

Left to right:
Santu Mofokeng, Denied Access to Graves, 2012, Pigment print, 16 x 24 cm
Santu Mofokeng, Driefontein Mine with Graves, Mpumalanga (South Africa), 2012, Pigment print, 99,5 x 145 cm
Santu Mofokeng, Commondale Plantation with Graves, Piet Retief (South Africa), 2012, Pigment print, 30 x 45 cm
Santu Mofokeng, Commondale Community Farm, Piet Retief (South Africa), 2012, Pigment print, 30 x 45 cm
Santu Mofokeng, Commondale Graves, Piet Retief (South Africa), 2012, Pigment print, 30 x 45 cm
Santu Mofokeng, Driefontein Mine, Mpumalanga (South Africa), 2012, Pigment print, 30 x 45 cm
Santu Mofokeng, Relocated Gravestones, Bohlokong, Bethlehem, Free State (South Africa), 1992
Pigment print, 38 x 58 cm
All images courtesy of Santu Mofokeng and Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg.
© Roman Mensing, artdoc.de in Zusammenarbeit mit/ in cooperation with Thorsten Arendt

Santu Mofokeng, 6 photographs from the series The Black Photo Album / Look at Me, 1890-1950, 1997
Silver gelatin prints, different dimensions.
All images courtesy of Santu Mofokeng and Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg



Santu Mofokeng, 6 photographs from the series The Black Photo Album / Look at Me, 1890-1950, 1997
Silver gelatin prints, different dimensions.
All images courtesy of Santu Mofokeng and Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg